17 November 2010
© InfoA year after severe floods caused hundreds of people in Cumbria to flee their homes, the British Red Cross is still supporting the community’s recovery.
When the floods hit, Red Cross swift water rescue teams helped rescue more than 200 people from their flooded properties and ambulance crews helped with transportation and first aid, while staff and volunteers assisted in rest centres and at the Newcastle command and control centre. But that was only the beginning.
The national media has long since moved on, but staff and volunteers have spent the last year supporting local residents as they try to rebuild their lives. While many people have now returned to their homes, some have only done so recently and some have yet to do so.
Judi Evans, operations director for the north-east and Cumbria, said: “We know from our experience of flooding both overseas and in the UK that it can take months and sometimes years for people to fully come to terms with what has happened to them. Providing practical and emotional support to residents is as important as rebuilding the infrastructure of flood-damaged towns and communities.”
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, volunteers helped set up flood support centres in Cockermouth, Ulverston and Keswick. They provided a focal point for people to get information and support and to register so volunteers could regularly check on their well-being.
Over the last year, volunteers and staff have made more than 835 visits to people affected by the floods and made more than 2,200 phone calls to check on people’s welfare.
Getting things done
The Todhunters are one family that has received help from the Red Cross. Mary Todhunter remembered: “We had a terrible mess in our backyard, and on the driveway there was about a foot of mud and silt. There was no way that we could really clean this up because we’d lost everything in the flood. And besides that, my husband’s 80 and I’m 74, so we couldn’t tackle this. We went to see the Red Cross and asked if they could help in any way.”
Volunteers arrived the next day and cleared the debris and mud. Mary’s husband Harold said: “We can’t thank them enough. It was spotless when they finished. I’m 80 now, and all my tools – they’re gone with the flood. I don’t know where the shed is, maybe in Scotland for all I know. We can’t praise the Red Cross enough, and we always will do.”
The organisation’s support for the Todhunters didn’t end with their driveway. Volunteers have called the couple regularly to check they are okay. Mary said: “It does help when you know that someone else is thinking about you. We think the Red Cross is wonderful. They got things done!””
Working with Cumbria CVS, which supports third sector organisations in the region, the Red Cross is preparing a flood recovery report to be published in April 2011. It will examine in detail the role voluntary and community organisations have played in the flood recovery and ensure those lessons are incorporated into future government and third sector planning.
Both during the initial emergency response and afterwards, the Red Cross has worked in partnership with a variety of other voluntary sector organisations in Cumbria, including the RNLI, local mountain rescue teams, Cumbria CVS, the Rotary Club, the Cumbria Community Foundation, the Cumbria Sport Partnership and Age UK.
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